Free N95 masks: How and where to get them

CDC says properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks will offer the most protection against the virus

The very first shipments of N95 masks are hitting major U.S. pharmacies as early as Thursday.  

The masks are part of the Biden administration's effort to make 400 million masks available for free to U.S. residents, signifying the largest distribution of free masks by the federal government to the public since the pandemic began. 


As part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, a slew of pharmacies and community health centers nationwide were tasked with doling out the free protective masks while supplies last. 

However, some pharmacies are already warning consumers that there will be a limit on the number of masks given to each customer. For instance, CVS told FOX Business that it will offer free N95 masks at stores and pharmacies as well as inside Target and Schnucks stores, with inventory expected to arrive as early as Thursday. 

However, the company said there will be a limit of three masks per person while supplies last. 

"Our distribution of these masks is an extension of our commitment to providing equitable access to the tools necessary to fight COVID-19, including testing, vaccines and authorized therapies," the CVS spokesperson said. 

Meanwhile, Walgreens announced on social media that the first shipment of the makes has already hit its warehouses. The company expects to begin offering the masks starting Friday. 

The masks were shipped out last week amid the ongoing surge in coronavirus cases nationwide. The highly contagious omicron variant continues to grip the nation, accounting for more than 99% of all new cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

As of Jan. 19, over 68 million new cases have been reported in the U.S., according to CDC data. 

However, the agency recently updated its guidance saying that properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks offer the most protection against COVID-19.  


Aside from CVS and Walgreens, Rite Aid, Kroger Walmart, Meijer, Albertsons, Hy-Vee, and Wegmans will also carry the masks, according to multiple reports. 

Here is the list of retail pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, according to the CDC. 

  • Albertsons Companies, Inc., which includes over a dozen supermarkets such as Osco, Jewel-Osco, Albertsons, Albertsons Market, Safeway, Star Market and Shaw’s.
  • Costco
  • CVS Pharmacy
  • GeriMed
  • Good Neighbor Pharmacy and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation’s pharmacy services administrative organization (PSAO), Elevate Provider Network
  • Health Mart Pharmacies
  • H-E-B, LP
  • Hy-Vee
  • Innovatix
  • Kroger Co., which includes stores such as Kroger, Harris Teeter and Fred Meyer.
  • LeaderNET and The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, Cardinal Health’s PSAOs
  • Managed Health Care Associates
  • Meijer
  • Publix Super Markets
  • Retail Business Services, LLC , which includes Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford Bros Co and Stop & Shop.
  • Rite Aid
  • Southeastern Grocers, which owns Winn-Dixie, Harveys, Fresco Y Mas.
  • Topco Associates, LLC which includes Acme Fresh Markets, Associated Food Stores, Bashas, Big-Y Pharmacy and Wellness Center, Brookshire’s Pharmacy, Super One Pharmacy, Price Chopper, Market 32, Tops Friendly Markets, ShopRite, Wegmans, Weis Markets, Inc.
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart

The Associated Press contributed to this report.